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former comrade. But Li Chongsin cherished dreams of a higher ambition, and he thought he saw in this formidable northern rising a favourable opportunity for asserting his own position as an independent prince. Taitsou's rapid success undeceived him as to the feasibility of his enterprise, but yet it was not sufficiently rapid to prevent his revealing the design he had entertained. Taitsou's measures in face of this new danger were prompt and adequate. Taking the field in person with a small but select body of troops, Taitsou advanced by forced marches on Kwangling, where he arrived when Li Chongsin least expected him. Li Chongsin, seeing that resistance would be futile, also set fire to his palace and perished in the flames. Having thus satisfactorily disposed of two difficult questions, and checked the pretensions of two rivals, Taitsou obtained more leisure to carefully survey his position, which was one still calling for much tact, courage, and fertility of resource.
About this time the Niutchin Tartars, a tribe in Western China, came to Taitsou's court with presents of horses and pledges of good service. He received them favourably, and granted them the island of Chamen, probably Hainan, as a place of residence, where they should be exempt from liability for service on public works. In this voluntary surrender, imitated by several of the western tribes and peoples, may be seen a formal acknowledgment of the progress the Sung ruler was making towards accomplishing the reunion of the Empire.
The most important act of this period of his reign was undoubtedly the decree taking from the provincial governors the power of life and death which they had hitherto possessed. Henceforth it was ordered that no criminal should be executed without the Emperor's express sanction, and that a statement of every case should be sent to him for consideration; for, said he, "as life is the dearest thing men possess, should it be placed at the disposal of an official, often unjust or wicked?" The effect of this act was not only beneficial to the people, but it was followed by consequences tending to strengthen the position of the Emperor. Not merely was it a change in favour of the personal liberty of the subject, but it had the effect of promoting the influence of the ruler by restricting the power of his viceroys. It became the chief object of Taitsou's policy to undermine the power of the semi-independent princes who remained, and to turn them into governors holding office at his command. The whole purpose of his life was to sweep away these states within the state, and to again place on a firm foundation the central authority of the Emperor. There was also involved in this the old disputed point whether the succession to vacant governorships rested with the ruler, or whether it was to be hereditary in the family of the occupant. On the way in which this principle was settled depended more than upon any other circumstance the tranquillity of the Empire. Taitsou had not to wait long before the occasion offered of carrying his new resolution into execution.
The condition of these principalities represented in miniature the state of the Empire under recent dynasties. The prince or governor had in his conduct to his liege lord set an example which his own subordinates were not backward in imitating. The chief of a small district, especially if it contained a fortified town, aspired to independence, which in his eyes meant the possession of a standing army, and the right to wring as much money as he could out of the pockets of those placed under him. The conflict of rival pretensions was unceasing, and led to a strife between those who had and those others who wished to have, which was apparently endless. Taitsou remained a vigilant observer of these quarrels, prepared to intervene whenever the opportunity offered of reasserting the claims of the state. In Honan and Kiangnan there had been a contest of authority, and while in the former it had gone hard with the governor, who had been reduced to extremities by one of his vassals, in the latter the viceroy had successfully maintained his position, and was fairly on the way to establish an irresponsible and independent government of his own. It was against these that Taitsou resolved to act without further delay. His measures were taken with such secrecy and promptitude that he attained his ends without encountering any resistance. The army he placed in the field was of CONQUEST OF SZCHUEN. 239
overwhelming strength, for Taitsou had learnt, and wished to practise, the true humanity of war; and the campaign was fought and won without the shedding of a drop of blood. Two fertile provinces in the heart of the country, with a population of at least ten millions, were thus added to the dominions of the Sung Emperor.
In the north the Han prince and the kingdom of Leaoutung were still not only hostile, but defiant. The Emperor wished to wage war against them, but his prudent minister Chowpou dissuaded him from the attempt. The task would necessarily be a difficult and a dangerous one, and success would depend on a variety of circumstances over which it would be impossible to exercise any certain control. It would be wiser, he insisted, to leave the settlement of this question until the last; and Taitsou adopted his opinion.
In the south there was another question, scarcely less pressing than that in the north, awaiting solution, and one, moreover, which was attended with less danger. In Szchuen the old kingdom of Chow had been revived, and had maintained its own independence and tranquillity during the stormy century through which China had been passing. Incited by the representations of the Prince of Han, and encouraged by promises of support from various quarters, the ruler of this state came to the rash conclusion that he could cope with and destroy the new power of the Sungs. He accordingly declared war, and made preparations for the invasion of Honan. He had miscalculated his strength, but he had still more grievously mistaken his adversary. As soon as Taitsou learnt the hostile intentions of his neighbour he took prompt steps to anticipate the invasion of his dominions, by ordering sixty thousand troops to enter Szchuen from the side of Shensi. The success of his generals must have surpassed his most sanguine expectations. In less than two months the whole province was in his hands, and the ruling family prisoners at his court . A fertile province, commanding the navigation of the Great River, and twenty-six millions of new subjects were added at a stroke to the dominions of the new Emperor. Taitsou did not accompany this expedition in person, but in his palace his thoughts were ever with his brave army. A heavy fall of snow reminded him of their privations, and, taking off his own furred coat, he sent it to the general in command with the wish that he had as many more coats as might provide each of his soldiers with one. This thoughtful act excited the enthusiasm of the army, which had already accomplished such remarkable and gallant actions.
Some years of peace followed these decisive successes, and in A.D. 969 Taitsou had made all his preparations for the prosecution of the war which had been threatening since the beginning of his reign with his northern neighbours, the Prince of Han, and the King of Leaoutung. Nor had his opponents been backward in preparations on their side, and when one of Taitsou's generals advanced from the frontier he found himself in face of an army numerically so much his superior that he was compelled to beat a hasty retreat. The Tartar troops pursued him, harassed his rear, and committed depredations within the frontier. At this Taitsou was greatly irritated, and blamed his lieutenant not for declining an unequal battle, but for a precipitate retreat which exposed many unprotected towns and villages to the insults and attacks of the enemy. Taitsou was far too practical to waste precious time in recriminations. Even while he censured his commander, he moved up reinforcements in large numbers, at the head of which he placed himself. The enemy in turn gave way, taking refuge in the Han capital, Taiyuen, to which Taitsou laid close siege.
Taitsou drew up his lines in front of this celebrated place, and surrounded it with a wall. He also endeavoured to flood the town by diverting two neighbouring rivers from their courses. In short, he employed every means known to the engineers of that time to render the place untenable; but the defenders gallantly held out, meeting every attack with resolution, and each device with some counter-device. In the meanwhile a Tartar army was advancing from Leaoutung to the relief of the garrison; but Taitsou went out to meet it, and won a signal victory. The King of Leaoutung resolved to make another attempt sooner than leave his army in jeopardy, and he collected the whole military force of the A WILY PRINCE. 241
state, and despatched it to the relief of the gallant garrison still holding out at Taiyuen. In face of this great host, and also on account of the inclemency of the season, Taitsou adopted the prudent course of retreating from before the walls of Taiyuen. The disappointment was no doubt great, but the result showed the wisdom of the previous advice of his minister Chowpou. The campaign may be regarded as having closed without any decisive result to either side, but Taitsou undoubtedly returned baffled in his main object to his capital.
A fresh question awaited his consideration in the south. A prince of the Nan, or Southern Hans, held possession of Kwantung and a portion of Kwangsi, and was found to be implicated in several of the schemes formed for the overthrow of the Sung power.
It was resolved to take advantage of the lull in the contest in the north to reduce this potentate to a better sense of his own position, and of his obligations to the Emperor. Taitsou entrusted the task to his general, Panmei, and he had the satisfaction of finding another of the great Chinese provinces speedily reduced and subjected to his authority. This conquest was particularly grateful to the Emperor because it gave him increased means of asserting his claims with regard to the peoples of the south, although it only added, according to the official statement, less than one million subjects to the Empire.
There now only remained, among the independent governors of the previous dynasty, to be brought to a sense of order the Prince of Tang, whose territory embraced the modern provinces of Kiangnan. Warned by the fate of others, the Prince of Tang was very circumspect in his conduct, and strove to deprive the Emperor of all excuse for attacking him. But Taitsou was as wily in artifice as he was brave in action. He detained the envoys sent by the Tang prince, and when he asked for an explanation he was informed that he should come in person to pay his respects to the Emperor. This the Tang prince refused to do, because Taitsou declined to send him a patent for his states as a prince of the first order. Taitsou at once ordered the invasion VOL. I. R